13 November 1998

Welsh minister meets farmers

WELSH farming leaders met the new Welsh secretary Alun Michael for the first time this week.

They detailed the "disastrous circumstances" gripping the industry and presented possible solutions.

"We need swift government intervention with an immediate and meaningful injection of capital expenditure," FUW president, Bob Parry, told the minister.

With Mr Michael also looking at spending plans for 1999-2002, Mr Parry outlined the unions concern that only 3% of the Welsh budget was destined for agriculture.

"That does not adequately reflect the importance of the industry in terms of its influence over the prosperity of the wider rural economy of Wales," said Mr Parry.

Unless money was diverted to farming, social security budgets would have to be increased to cope with the rise in farmers, their families, and ancillary workers suddenly being forced on to the dole queue, he added.

Speaking after the meeting, David Harden, chairman of the Country Landowners Association in Wales, said he was encouraged by Mr Michaels understanding of the vital need to rebuild long-term prosperity for farming.

"He seemed very keen to learn about the immediate problems of Welsh agriculture, and to acquire ideas for solving these problems," Mr Harden said. &#42